Saturday, December 22, 2012

2012 in Film: The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man finally gave us an accurate version of the shittiest of all super heroes. Batman, especially after Frank Miller got his hands on him, might be a fascist or whatever, but he doesn't hold a candle to the nasty geek wish-fulfilment and entitled prickishness known to the world as Peter Parker. And finally, free of the curse of Toby Maguire's charisma and Sam Raimi's kitsch sentimentality, the reboot unveils the kid in his full glory.

Everything about this movie screams wish-fulfilment for a specific set of those entitled self-proclaimed victims known as white dudes who were "bullied." Not just the high-flying heroism and getting the girl, not just the fact that the webslinging is back to its bootstrapsish origin; not even just the Uncomplicated Moral Righteousness. More than anything Spidey is the wet dream of the self-identified nerd who loves to imagine lunchroom encounters with jocks where his debate skills debilitate their underdeveloped brains, with a nice little helping of ultraviolence to cap off the encounter with their "oppressor."

Obviously this fantasy is bullshit down to its very premise. But then, the film itself is informed by it down to its very structure, so. And much better to have the fantasy shown for how it would actually play out, with the fantasist coming off as a snarky, entitled prick, than to mask it with cheap sentimental hooks. Because even when the movie isn't letting Parker spout grating one-liners, it is fetishizing technology (occasionally masked as science) at the level of both plot -- it being the only thing that can actually impact anything, for good or ill -- and form -- the fucking 3D, man, my god.

Which isn't to say that the 3D is any good, of course. Both Silent Hill and Ghost Rider did it way better this year, which was kind of a dissappointment given that Spidey is probably the single most 3D friendly film character who ever was born. But it not being particularly well utilized doesn't stop it from being fetishized just like every other technology in and of the film, presented with all the mystical reverence that nerds show for their toys. In fact it even ends up being more apt for its incompetence, expecting you to coo at it just because it is so clearly cooing at itself; a better description of this movie I cannot imagine, and sort of charming in its infuriating, loathsome way.

The fact that all of this is perfectly internally consistent is kind of marvellous, ultimately. Every thread collapses in on itself, each apparent misstep an even more accurate portrayal of itself than a more technically accomplished or politically or psychologically robust alternative could have possibly been. The barks of laughter that came from the audience when Stan Lee showed up were such a perfect response I was floored; it was the opposite of the Hitchock self-insert, whose pleasure is for the quiet collector or self-described cinephile. Lee instead parades himself as a librarian listening to classical music as Spidey and Lizard smash up his library, while he is totally oblivious. There is nothing to be said about this. Every single aspect is so self-aggrandizing, so narcissistic, so utterly fucking thrilled with its own vapid power that the only possible reaction is to laugh.

And, y'know, laughing can be fun.

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